The AFC closed out the year with a night of fights that may have lacked competitiveness, but made up for it with plenty of entertainment. Although most of the night proved one-sided, none of the scraps were boring. Will any of the highlights from the event make my list of yearly awards? Check back next week to find out!
KNOCKOUT OF THE NIGHT
Michael Madrid, Zach 'Baby Bear' Eastlick
How awesome is it that both the main and co-main event resulted in highlight reel knockouts? I couldn't pick just one of them to give this award to.
Eastlick made the statement he was trying to with his seizure-inducing slam of Terrence Mitchell. Why Mitchell didn't establish distance with his jab and kicks right away is a mystery, and one of the all time strategic blunders if you ask me. Mitchell is much taller than Eastlick, and has very good striking. Instead of playing to his strengths, he decided to shoot in and take the fight to the ground, where Eastlick excels. Maybe he was trying to win by doing the last thing his opponent expected, and it almost worked, as Mitchell cranked a deep armbar midway through the first round. Eastlick could either try to slip out, or slam Mitchell straight to Hell. He chose the latter. Video clearly showed Mitchell's shoulder hitting first, so there was no illegal move to complain about. As Mitchell's limbs seized up and involuntarily flopped around, I think it's safe to say most spectators stopped cheering the gorgeous KO and said a prayer that Mitchell would be left with enough motor skills to operate a remote wheelchair. But Mitchell proved he is made of carbon nanofibers, as he was up and walking around later that night. Let's face it, if any of us normal people had been on the receiving end of that slam/seizure, we'd be picking out which adult diaper was the most dignified, or faking a coma to keep 'Baby Bear' from feeling the need to finish the job.
Eastlick showed top notch class as well, leading the cheering for Mitchell and making it clear he did not intend to injure him.
"I didn't even know [he was unconscious] until they pulled me off of him...I looked down and there he was," Eastlick later said.
Eastlick also took a moment to consider his next challenge, a title bout with Jesse Cruz.
"I think Jesse's got his hands full," Eastlick said. "I've got a style like no one else...I hope he's training hard, because I'm gonna come out even harder than I did this fight."
The bout will be an opportunity for Greatland Martial Arts to take home it's third AFC belt, not too shabby for a gym just a few years old. Head coach Matt Stout found himself hopeful, but a bit distracted.
"Obviously, I'm excited. I'm not thinking aobut that right now, I'm just hoping Terrence [Mitchell] is okay, and if he is hurt I wish him a fast recovery," Stout said, but added, "'Baby Bear' brings a perfect style to basically do whatever he wants to [Cruz]."
Madrid's KO had all of the pizazz of Eastlicks without the drama of the opening scene of every Disney sports movie. After patiently toying with his opponents last minute replacement, Madrid faked his trademark back kick and flung a spinning backfist which nearly popped off Jacob Meyer's head like a dandelion.
As with the other KO of the Night, I don't want to take anything away from the victor, but I've got to question the strategy of the vanquished. Meyer bravely said last night, "I'll fight anybody, I'm not afraid of anybody." Courageous, but you'd think if he's fighting anybody he'd at least fight 'em smart. Meyer's fighting pedigree is high school wrestling and jui jitsu; why he would stand and trade blows with a celebrated striker who's ground game has shown huge gaping holes is not just ill-advised, it was kind of stupid.
Luckily, I believe stupidity should be punished, and Madrid did just that.
SUBMISSION OF THE NIGHT
Derek 'D-Wreck' Chalifour
It's been fun to watch Chalifour grow up in the cage. He had his first fight just after his 18th birthday, and has come far since then. But with every flashy kick or victory by explosive striking he's had, he's also had a frustrating loss via grappling. Recently he has started to show more composure and maturity in the cage, and at AFC 78 he finally put it all together into a threatening ground game.
Against a rival gym's wrestling coach, Chalifour first brushed off a take down attempt, but ended up on his butt later. However, he constantly threatened off his back with distracting blows and rapid-fire submission attempts, finally sinking the armbar.
FIGHT OF THE NIGHT
Frank 'Lil' Tank' Watts vs. Jordon 'Sugar Glider' Thickstun
Despite ignorant fans booing, this was a fantastic fight. Watts and Thickstun put on one of the greatest ground clinics the AFC has ever hosted. Watts demonstrated exemplary control of position and submission defense, spending the majority of three rounds in mount, half-guard, or side control, while fending off several sharp submission attempts. Thickstun, for his part, took practically no damage while in those bad spots, showing beautiful defense, while threatening with several guillotines, a knee bar, and a freaking gogoplata. For ground geeks it was quite satisfying, and hopefully not ruined by spectators who had no idea what they were watching, screaming for the ref to stand them up after two seconds in half-guard.
MOST FUN OF THE NIGHT
MMA or Pro Wrestling? Who cares?
As expected, Thomas 'The Pot-Bellied Assassin' Ide's undercard scrap with Hipa 'The Slayin' Samoan' Fouvale was the most broadly appealing. Accidentally, but predictably, the bout resembled an old-school wrestling match. It was more than a little ridiculous, but in a good way.
In one corner, reluctantly playing the heel, stood a tall, skinny guy with an ethnically themed nickname. The crowd booed. Fouvale acted surprised.
Then down the walkway came the smiling and likable face, dressed as Santa Claus and bouncing to a rock version of a Christmas carol. Taking off his costume, the delightfully nicknamed fighter still resembled Santa, in both physique and joviality.
The short, squat 'Pot-Bellied Assassin' outweighed him opponent by a full 25 pounds, but 'The Slayin' Samoan' stood eight inches taller.
The first attack in the bout, before a punch was even thrown, was a slam from Ide. Laying his bulk on Fouvale like a pallet of sandbags, Ide seemed firmly in control. Then Fouvale pulled out a funky back-roll over the back of Ide, landing back on his feet and shocking everyone. Fouvale executed his trademark haymaker-fu, but Ide picked him back up and slammed him again. This time Ide would keep him down, finishing him with a textbook arm-triangle choke. The fight was great fun the watch for everyone.
WOLFPACK ON THE RISE
Anchorage Brazilian Juijitsu went a perfect 5-0 on Tuesday. Along with Frank Watts decision, four debut fighters on the team won their matches, and each in dominant fashion. That's an impressive mark for any team, and the Wolfpack should be proud of itself. That said, the fighters they beat were among the least accomplished in the AFC. A fighter should never debut against someone above their level, so I'm not complaining. I'm just pointing out that the real test will be when these guys throw down with higher competition, which they were all clearly ready for. At any rate, the last two months signal the rumblings of a possible take over from the venerated gym next year, if (and it's a big if) their new fighters decide to keep fighting, and live up to what appears to be their potential. It appears that they plan to do just that, judging by their post-fight interviews.
"I want to climb the ranks," stated David Mason.
"I feel like I was born to do this," prophesied Corie Geirman.
NEXT FOR MADRID: Josh Henry or Jesse Kueber. Either of the fighters he was supposed to fight this month.
NEXT FOR EASTLICK: A championship bout with Jesse 'The Puerto Rican Gamecock' Cruz.
NEXT FOR MITCHELL: Plenty of rest to let his brain heal, then the showdown with Josh Clark fans have been salivating for.